Like many kids back in the early 80s, Steve Patà was encouraged by his parents to ‘get a trade’ when he left school.
He didn’t want to ignore his parents’ sound advice. But he also had a lingering interest in the military after his school cadets experience. The compromise? An Army apprenticeship.
“I was a pretty ordinary vehicle mechanic though,” he admits. So on completion of his apprenticeship he promptly enrolled for officer training at Royal Military College, Duntroon. “Let’s just say I could see the merits of ‘getting a career’ rather than the trade,” he laughs.
Steve’s career has been wide and varied. The graduating officer moved into the Transport Corp in 1990 and then across to the military police. In 1997 he took a slightly less conventional step to the Army Reserve and a 10-year stint as a plain clothes detective with Queensland Police.
Since returning to full-time Army in 2009, Lieutenant Colonel Patà has been deployed twice to Afghanistan – Kandahar in 2012 and Kabul in 2016.
And that’s just his work story. Like most serving members, he’s had to deal with the regular posting cycle and disruption to family.
“In my experience, the uncertainty of ‘where’ you’ll be and ‘when’ is the major challenge for ADF families,” he says. “Plus, there’s always the looming prospect of deployment to a war zone.”
He doesn’t shy from the life or the commitment made. But it “has an impact,” the father of four admits.
“Changing schools, the family doctor, the house you live in and your circle of friends does cause some strain,” he says. “It’s not insurmountable though. You rely on your resilience and coping mechanisms to deal with it.”
Steve also acknowledges that Defence is now much better at helping families manage.
“There are more flexible working arrangements now compared with when I first started. And the support for families is better now…both through policies and the chain of command. And organisations like Defence Community Organisation – and even the support Defence Health offers families – makes it easier.
Steve and his family have been members of Defence Health for many years. “I checked Defence Health out when I got engaged and it seemed like the best option in terms of cover and cost. All four children have been born under the umbrella of Defence Health. And I had cover for myself when I was a police officer.”
Steve is still young and doesn’t have transition on his radar yet. But he feels that when the time comes, he won’t feel daunted.
“I’ve already transitioned once and came back,” he says. “I’ve been out in the big bad world as a civilian so transition doesn’t really worry me. I understand it can stress some people, but with organisations like Defence Health and DCO, the support is there to mitigate the pressures.”